From the Road of the Forra to the Varone Waterfalls: five spots on Lake Garda you can’t miss
Lake Garda has a big amount of tourist attractions that can be visited all year round. Aside from the most famous ones, like Salò, Sirmione with its castle, Limone sul Garda, the theme parks, and the Vittoriale degli Italiani monument, there are other less known spots that are just as rich in charm that can be easily visited during a weekend while hunting secret locations of Lake Garda.
The Road of the Forra and the view from the Thrill Terrace
Few people know that near the coast of Lake Garda is the famous Strada della Forra (Road of the Forra), a sinuous and beautiful road made out of hairpin bends, tunnels, and cliffs with a lake view. This road has been a location for a James Bond movie, where the main character drove on his Aston Martin.
The Road of the Forra represents an engineering spectacle as well as a landscaping one and, aside from being considered one of the most beautiful streets in the world, Winston Churchill called it “the eighth wonder of the world”.
The Road of the Forra is part of the Provincial Road 38 Porto-Pieve and starts with a deviation from the trafficked Western Gardesana Provincial Road, near Limone del Garda.
From here it climbs up the ridge of the mountain, offering a breathtaking view of the lake, with only a few short stone hedges as protection.
The Strada della Forra, which in 6 kilometres can take you to the town of Tremosine, 400m above sea level, has been carved into the mountain, and in some spots it is very narrow, and in others it can only be crossed thanks to an articulate system of carved tunnels, that were dug over a century ago. The road was opened in 1913 and, considering the engineering solutions that were used, it is a phenomenal work.
The Forra is a road especially loved by bikers, who have fun with its curves and changes of direction. The road by itself is a unique spectacle.
Once in Tremosine, you can visit the beautiful Terrazza del Brivido (Thrill Terrace), a panoramic platform suspended in the air 350m high, that offers a spectacular view not only of the lake, but of the mountain and the Road of the Forra, as well.
Tremosine’s Thrill Terrace is property of Hotel Paradiso, but it can be visited for free by accessing the hotel’s bar.
The Paper Mill Valley and the Covoli Footbridge
Near the town of Toscolano Maderno is the Valle delle Cartiere del Garda (the Paper Mill Valley of Garda Lake), an antique industrial area once dedicated to the production of paper, now converted to a tourist route for industrial archeology.
Around the year 1300 Toscolano was the heart of the new paper industry that was developing in the area and they also produced money bills until 1948. Nowadays tourists can visit the Paper Museum and the ruins of the antique factory.
The Paper Mill Valley of Toscolano is easily reachable through the Western Gardesana Provincial Road that skirts the lake, following the road deviation towards the hamlet of Gaino.
Here in less than 3 hours you can follow a 9km itinerary by foot that allows you to visit the ruins of the paper mills, the archeological excavations and the mountain rivers.
Part of that itinerary is the passerella di Covoli (Covoli footbridge), also known as the forra di Covoli, a fascinating path suspended on gorge of the Toscolano river, that unites the Paper Mill Valley with the nearby town of Gaino and the Valle delle Camerate.
The footbridge has been recently reopened after six years or maintenance works, and it can be crossed by whoever wants to take a sunday walk with the family, by excursionists, and those who love trekking and mountain bike trips. The landscape and the constant historical elements make the Paper Mill Valley a very charming place.
The Varone Waterfalls
In the northern part of Lake Garda is a natural jewel of astounding beauty. Only 3 kilometres from Riva del Garda is the Parco Grotta Cascata del Varone (The Varone Waterfall Cave Park), a unique natural spectacle.
The Varone creek has eroded the limestone rocks patiently over the past 20.000 years and created a spectacular waterfall roughly 100 metres in height that falls from a rocky gorge shaped like a funnel that was carved in the mountain.
To admire this sight the area has been equipped with steps and platforms that allow tourists to view the Varone Waterfalls up close. Two Caves, one below and one above, act as platforms where you can observe the creek’s water fall in the gorge.
Public access has been possible since 1874 thanks to a few european nobles, such as King John of Saxony and Prince Nicholas of Montenegro.
Inside the Varone Waterfall park is a picnic area with outdoor tables that visitors can use. Opening hours vary depending on the time of the year, so it’s always best to look them up in information points in Riva del Garda before going.
We also recommend you bring a waterproof jacket to shelter you from the cold and humidity of the caves.
The haylofts of Cima Rest in Valvestino
In Valvestino, a one hour car ride from Gargnano, are the haylofts of Cima Rest, an ideal sojourn for excursionists and tourists.
Valvestino offers visitors various excursion paths, from the simple ones ideal for family walks, to the more challenging ones for trekking lovers and mountain bike professionals that want to journey into the mountain trails. Near the haylofts is the astronomical observatory of Borgo Cima Rest, that can be visited upon booking.
The Cima Rest haylofts are 1200 metres above sea level and are unique architectural structures, built using a technique that seems to date back to the longobard period, where the classic hay roofs stand out.
The inside of these haylofts is made out of a first floor with stone walls that were once used both to shelter livestock during winter, and to allow production and conservation of cheese and butter.
After being recently renovated by the town, they were transformed into one of the main sojourn options in Valvestino, and can be rented all year long.
From barns and haylofts they have been converted into comfortable houses equipped for all comforts, such as with autonomous heating, and they are supplied to house up to six people at a time.
Stilts Museum near Ledro Lake
A few kilometres from Riva del Garda is the Stilts Museum of Ledro Lake, that teaches us about the lake’s inhabitants over 4000 years ago.
The remains of some of the stilts that made one the biggest villages in northern Italy were casually discovered in 1929, when the water level of Ledro Lake was lowered to allow the construction of a hydroelectric power plant.
The stilts, of which over 10.000 posts were found, date back to the Bronze age, and the remains of a canoe and other daily-use objects that date back to 4000 years ago were found on-site and displayed in the museum.
In the past ten years the museum has been equipped with interactive archeological laboratories used for school activities, while the realistic reconstruction of the prehistoric village allows visitors to relive up close the lives of our ancestors.
Due to the historical importance of this place, the archeological site of Lake Ledro has been recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
After being closed for a few months for maintenance work, the archeological park is now visitable every day in the months from March to November, while in December it is only open Saturday and Sunday, and in the winter months of January and February it is closed.
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